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Rewind to the FMV Age

Independent British developer Kitatus Studios aiming to "put the video back into video-gaming" with its upcoming Shadow Peak.

The "CD-ROM era," as the early-to-mid '90s became known to some people, was a period of great experimentation for game developers. Suddenly provided with physical media that housed considerably more data than previous formats, the question on most developers' lips was "how best to use that space?"

One popular use of the increased capacity of CD-ROM discs was to stuff games full of full-motion or pre-rendered video sequences -- or, in some cases, make games entirely out of pre-recorded footage. On a significant number of occasions, these games were complete disasters -- the inherent non-interactivity of a pre-recorded video sequence doesn't make for the most flexible or stimulating gameplay, after all -- but there were situations where this type of presentation could and did work.

One of the most popular uses of full-motion video was for adventure games, and indeed the early CD-ROM era played host to a number of FMV adventures that, while primitive in comparison to the real-time visual tour-de-forces we take for granted today, are still remarkably solid today. Titles like The 7th Guest and Under a Killing Moon blended computer graphics and video footage together to create something that looked reasonably convincing, while slightly later offerings from Sierra such as Phantasmagoria and Gabriel Knight: The Beast Within were composed of live footage and photographic backdrops for the true "interactive movie" experience.

FMV adventures eventually fell out of favor, and following this the point-and-click adventure dipped under the radar for a good few years, leading many to pronounce it "dead." As we all know by now, it wasn't dead at all, just sleeping; the genre is undergoing something of a renaissance right now, with a diverse array of experiences ranging from the madcap British comedy of the Ben There, Dan That! series to the prolific, multi-genre output of studios such as Daedalic.

This new breed of adventure game has largely been a return to the days of huge pixels and sprite-based characters, however; the FMV adventure has continued to languish. Or has it?

That's right, you guessed it: an independent developer has announced that it's bringing back the FMV adventure. Well, someone had to.

There's no screenshots of Shadow Peak yet, so here's Gabriel Knight: The Beast Within, regarded by many as one of the finest FMV adventures out there.

Shadow Peak, as the new game is called, is the work of independent British developer Kitatus Studios. It's the company's first project, but the team's has seemingly been working on it quietly for some time already: the release date of October 28 isn't all that far off, after all.

The game is a psychological thriller that seems to share more than a few thematic elements with the Silent Hill series. Cast in the role of middle-aged writer Frank Dawkins, players return to the protagonist's hometown in an attempt to discover the truth behind the nightmares he has been suffering since childhood. All is not as it seems in the mysterious town, as these things tend to go, and it's up to the player to figure out what's going on before the town claims Dawkins' soul.

The team at Kitatus claims that the game blends classic point and click adventure sensibilities with more modern survival horror and action elements from, yes, Silent Hill, but also Amnesia: The Dark Descent and Heavy Rain. Visual inspirations include Dark Seed, The 7th Guest, the Tex Murphy Series and The Last Express, and the team claims that using recent technological advances, they have managed to "go above and beyond the representation of real actors... using techniques that weren't possible when [old-school FMV games] were originally created."

There's no screenshots or other media available of Shadow Peak as yet, but the team's Facebook page suggests that anyone interested will be able to get a first glimpse at the new game in the next couple of days. Keep an eye on Kitatus' official site for the latest.

Tags: News

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